Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Victimization and Anger

71 encouraged me to keep on this line of thought by asking me why I would frame the reaction of professors who feel exhausted by needy students as adopting the "victim" narrative. I am not sure I have a good answer to 71's question, so instead of answering his question, I will think out loud a bit more about the relationship of the logic of victimization to anger.

Part of what I would need to better work out is what the logic of victimization is. In part, I see victimization as a particular expression of anger. For those who are physically overpowered by others or who are politically oppressed in various ways, feeling a victim is a wholly "natural" and comprehensible response. One feels without power in the face of their oppressor. Victimization is an expression of powerless. But, victimization is also an expression of anger, e.g. one is angry precisely because one is powerless to change his or her circumstances.

The particular way that anger can express itself is either in a self-injury or self-hatred or in hatred toward the other. The hatred toward the other, it seems to me, can be expressed in a variety of ways. The particular expression of anger that interests me lies in how victims come to characterize those who they perceive to be injuring them.

At this point, I want to move away from discussing victims of physical violence of political oppression, and back to discussing people who perceive themselves as being injured by another party. The precise nature of this injury is to rob the victim of his or her "happiness" (or pursuit of happiness?)

These sorts of "victims" are what I have in mind in my notion of a "logic of victimization." The idea here seems to be that one can adopt a view of oneself as a victim as an expression of anger toward someone who seems to be robbing one of his or her happiness. The teacher who has to slave away at bringing students up to a certain skill level and thereby spend so much time that he or she feels exhausted (perhaps guilty as Laura in the comments said to yesterday's post) and thereby unhappy because his or her labor, as teacher, is not turning out the desired product.

We see this unhappiness in personal relationships or in our attitudes toward drug addicts or the poor. We see many people as undeserving of our love, our respect, and our help because "they are not taking responsibility." What I am suggesting is that the logic of victimization adopts that particular rhetoric as an expression of anger. The anger follows from the frustration in not being able to change someone into an idea of what would make me happy.

I dunno. What do you think? I just wrote this up . . .

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